Memola (project completed)

The MEMOLA project is a completed project. Their project page can be visited here.

MEMOLA project focuses on the study of four MEditerranean MOuntainous LAndscape in Europe: Sierra Nevada (Spain), Vjosa Valley (Albania), Trapani Mountains and Colli Euganei (Italy).

Project Description

The project aims to analyse cultural landscapes taking as a central axis the diachronic study of the relationship between human populations and natural resources- in particular soil and water- that are essential to generate agrosystems. We assume that the logic framework governing landscapes and their structure are strongly conditioned by the need of ensuring the livelihood of rural communities over time. They are spatial representations of the social relations that stand behind social production systems. The construction of landscapes is based on strategies of production and reproduction of societies, each one with their particular characteristics, throughout history. It is necessary to develop a complex approach in which human and natural elements are combined and mutually integrated.
MEMOLA project applies an integrated approach to assessing the role of landscapes in European cultural heritage. The urgent need to safeguard the traditional-historical agro-ecosystems has led to the establishment of new environmental protection policies around the world. In the context of natural resource management, sustainable development has become a leading target of policy agenda, and the design of more sustainable alternatives is a driving need. The study of the interaction between environment and human activities within cultural landscape archaeology approach is especially important.

This project is funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research,
Technological Development and Demonstration under Grant Agreement nº 613265

The recovery the medieval irrigation channel of Barjas (Cáñar, Granada- Spain) . MEMOLA project


The project implements an interdisciplinary approach in which environmental and paleoenvironmental data are fundamental for historical interpretation. At the same time, data and samples from the historical and archaeological studies are required for agronomic, botanical, pedological and hydrological analysis; as well as the evaluation of ecosystem services and potential land uses. The study includes an historical and archaeological analysis of the four areas, archival documentation and ethnographic field work. Methodological protocols were previously established by those responsible for each activity, to ensure the consistency of the data, compatibility for comparison and applicability in environmental studies. This exchange is complemented with workshops, focused seminars and personnel interchange for specific tasks (LIDAR, Hydraulic Archaeology, soils analysis, etc). Subsequently, archaeological and historical data is used for the interpretation of landscape dynamics and for environmental and sustainability studies.

Another key component of project methodology is linked to the social dimension of our research and involves working local communities. In landscape formation, there are a number of fundamental elements (tangible and intangible) where the generation of agrosystems play a central role in the subsistence of rural communities and the survival and development of past societies. Agrosystems are directly linked to strategies and peasant knowledge, but also linked to the predominant social relations in a determined context. It is in rural communities that we find the main social actors of archaeological landscape research, and their participation the research process is crucial. One of our methodological lines of work is Participatory Action Research, a method of research and collective learning experience, based on a critical analysis, with the active participation of the groups involved, and oriented to stimulate transformation and social change. Landscape archaeology is an area which is particularly suitable for this kind of methodology. Through it, research and participatory actions can be promoted, altered to mitigate any weaknesses which become apparent and used to help promote dynamics that produce a positive effect on landscape and landscape conservation. The design of such actions involves three fundamental requirements:

1- Intervention over significant aspects for the local context.
2- Involvement of the population in its design and development.
3- Pursuing of local benefits.

Expected Results

MEMOLA project is profoundly committed to the science that promotes long-term social change with an impact on contemporary issues. It aims to anticipate, using archaeological research on landscape, the long-term consequences of social, economic and political decision-making.

A) CULTURAL HERITAGE: The historical and archaeological study of the four selected Mediterranean areas will allow a better comprehension of the formation processes of historical landscapes, thus implementing and improving strategies for conservation and protection of these territories. Through the study, diffusion and valorisation of these historical spaces, we will achieve a revalorisation of these cultural assets, enhancing the attractiveness of the territories. In addition, intangible cultural heritage represented by centennial oral shared knowledge pertaining to the local communities, is extremely important since it conforms local identities. Its preservation implies the maintenance of the regional cultural peculiarities and traditions, both productive and cultural.

B) SOCIOECONOMIC: The socioeconomic impact is a priority in project actions. We believe in the social utility of our research and we have a responsibility as scientists. Cultural landscapes are the result of a coevolutionary process and, in the case of mountain areas, have shown enormous resilience and efficiency throughout history. However, at present, many of these systems are in the process of abandonment and marginalized in a highly economic context.
For mountain landscapes and their agricultural systems modernity has meant above all the end of many traditional activities and the gradual disappearance of many of the connected know how. However, in the context of global and climate change, these systems are a guarantee of sustainability and an example of balance with nature that should affect populations that live within them.
The valorisation, dissemination and specific actions carried out on these landscapes, will contribute to enhancing social awareness and, at the same time, have a positive impact on the social and economical tissues of the studied areas: 1) Specific conservation proposals involve improving efficiency in the use of resources without losing the values and traditional uses that structure and maintain the landscapes. Water is one of those essential resources in the Mediterranean area; 2) According to the strong dissemination of all results carried out by the project, MEMOLA project aims for the promotion the local development and economy, agrarian production, touristic through cultural routes as a strategic activity to combine strategies to protect local cultural heritage, enhance social awareness and have a positive impact on the social and economical tissues and identify ecosystem management strategies that prevent environmental degradation.

C) ENVIRONMENT: The environmental dimension of this study (water, land and other resources as finite and vulnerable) will allow the identification of agro-ecosystem management strategies that prevent environmental degradation, provide food and habitat to living organisms, and support other natural processes and functions of the Mediterranean mountain agro-ecosystems. To achieve all of these goals, there must have been trade-offs in the past, that will be documented and analysed in light of current environmental conservation paradigms. The analysis of the environmental impact of historical agricultural land-uses is an essential factor in generating conservation strategies, impacting directly on the future environmental health of the mountain range.

Key Publications

Aleo, M; Cambria S. and Bazan G. 2015; Tradizioni etnofarmacobotaniche in alcune comunità rurali dei Monti di Trapani (Sicilia occidentale). Quaderni di Botanica ambientale e applicata. Vol. 24 Pp. 27-38.

Brogiolo, G.P. 2014; Comunicare l’archeologia in una economia sostenible. European Journal of Post-Classical Archeologies. Vol 4. Pp 331-342.

Brogiolo, G.P. 2015; Flooding in Northern Italy during the Early Middle Ages: Resilience and adaptation. European Journal of Post-Classical Archeologies. Vol 5. ( soon to be published)

Chavarría Arnau,A, Reynolds, A.(eds.) 2015; Detecting and understanding historic landscapes, Mantova: SAP Società Archeologica.

Chavarría Arnau,A, Reynolds, A.(eds.) 2015. Detecting and understanding historic landscapes, Mantova: SAP Società Archeologica.
Martín Civantos, J.M. 2014; Mountainous Landscape Domestication. Management of non-cultivated productive areas in Sierra Nevada (Granada-Almeria, Spain). European Journal of Post-Classical Archeologies. Vol 4. Pp 99-130.

MEMOLA Documentaries:

The rehabilitation of the traditional irrigation system of Barjas

Biodiversity in Sicilian Agroecosystems: the old fruit trees 

Participants and Affiliated Institutions

Coordinator: Dr. José María Martín Civantos. University of Granada

The University of Granada. Dr. José María Martín Civantos (Medieval History). Dra.Mª Carmen Trillo San José (Medieval History); Dr. Antonio Ortega Santos (Contemporary History); Dr. Alberto Matarán Ruiz (Environmental Engineering); Dr.Isabel Bestué Cardiel (Architecture); Mª Pilar Tudela Vázquez (MEMOLA Management Support Team); PhD Student José Francisco Ruiz Ruiz (Anthropology); PhD Student Pablo Romero Pellitero (Archaeology); PhD Student Lara Delgado Anés (Archaeology)

The University of Padova: Dr. Gian Pietro Brogiolo (Archaeology); Dr. Alexandra Chavarría Arnau (Archaeology), Dr. Julia Sarabia Bautista (Archaeology)

CeRPHAAL: PhD Student Ardit Miti (Archaeology) and PhD Student Eglantina Serjani (Archaeology)

The University of Córdoba: Dr. Elías Fereres (Ecology); Dr. María José Polo (Hydrology); Dr. Felisa Ceña Delgado (Economy of Development); Dr. Cristina Aguilar (Hydraulic Engineering); Ms Ana Castro Gascón (Laboratory Technician); Dr Margarita García Vila (Agronomy)

The University of Palermo: Dr. Francesco M.Raimundo (Botany); Dr. Rosario Schicchi (Botany); Dr. Carmelo Dazzi (Pedology); Dr. Giuseppe Bazan (Botany); Dr. Gianniantonio Domina (Botany); Dr. Giuseppe Lo Papa (Pedology), Dr. Vivienne Spadaro (Biology).

The University of Sheffield: Dr. Peter Day (Archaeology); Dr. Roger Doonan (Archaeology); Rocco Corselli (Archaeology)

Eachtra Archaeological Projects Limited: Jacinta Kiely (Archaeology), Maurizio Toscano (GIS/Database Specialist-Web Developer);

Arqueoandalusí Arqueología y Patrimonio S.L: María Teresa Bonet García (Archaeology)

The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC): Dr. Leonor Peña Chocarro (Archaeobotany); Dr. Guillem Pérez Jordá (Paleobotany)

The UNESCO Andalusia’s Center: Ángel Bañuelos Arroyo (Heritage Managers), PhD Student Lara Delgado Anés (Archaeology)

Contact information

José María Martín Civantos MEMOLA coordinator.
María Pilar Tudela-Vázquez. MEMOLA Management Support Team.
Lara Delgado Anés. Outreach Coordinator of MEMOLA project.